Arriving in Stockholm Sweden, the Kultur Festival is in full swing and I am surrounded by aliens of the pink persuasion. Then again, maybe I’m the alien.
This post was originally published in 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Arriving in Sweden
I was thrilled to return to Europe after my whirlwind adventures here last year. And despite the reputed high cost of living and traveling in Scandanavia, I figured that in the company of a few locals like my online colleague Lola Akinmade (thanks again for lunch!), and some friends of friends who offered up wonderful slice of Swedish hospitality, I could make a go of it – Professional Hobo style!
Immediately on arrival in Stockholm, I loved the vibe, the architecture, and the people. Almost everybody I spoke to had a fairly good command of English, since my Swedish skills left something to be desired. Even in stores far of the tourist trail, I overheard flawless conversations between English-speaking customers (who I assumed to be ex-pats) and the staff.
Mid-August is a great time to visit Stockholm, with lots going on. The Kultur Festival was a real highlight for me, with live events going on throughout the city every day – most of them for free. Variety shows with international acts, dance performances, and musical concerts (with world-renowned artists like Buena Vista Social Club) were everywhere, along with buskers, art exhibitions, theatre, and street shows.
It was while walking through the square outside the central train station that it happened. Pink aliens invaded.
This was one of my favourite Kultur Festival events, and one that kept the audience hopping (literally). The Kultur Festival website best describes the chaos and fun I saw:
Every alien character has its own story, its own ways of communicating and challenges the public in a different way. The aliens have a special sensibility, seeing the world around us as a completely new and exciting place. In search of a new home, they try to integrate into our society.
The INVASION is examining questions of multicultural societies and the conventions of behaviour in the public space. The audience is invited to react spontaneously, become part of the story and join the performers in exploring the border between fiction and reality to establish theatre as a game, a ritual and a social event.
I had just as much fun watching how people reacted to and interacted with the aliens as I did watching the aliens’ antics. With a pre-conceived notion of Swedish people being fairly reserved, I was thrilled to see playful and outgoing interactions all around.
Other Stockholm Highlights
With only a few days to enjoy the city, I had to pick and choose what I could do. Since the city is comprised of 14 islands (the outer area comprising 30,000 islands and archipelagos), it’s a water-friendly place and a boat tour (there are plenty to choose from) is a great way to gain a sense of the place.
I was amazed to see beaches right in the middle of the city action, and people jumping off docks and rocks into the waters of the Baltic Sea and Lake Malar.
City Hall (Stadshuset)
A friend with inside connections also showed me around Stockholm city hall (locally known as Statshuset), where annual Nobel Prize banquets are held. (Interesting fact: Stockholm is home to Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite. However all good things must eventually come to an end; sadly he accidentally blew up his studio – and himself in the process).
Skansen Open-Air Museum
You’ll see locals and tourists alike wandering around Skansen – the world’s oldest open-air museum. It’s a historical look at Sweden with hundreds of historical buildings having been moved here from all over the country, and costumed staff demonstrating traditional handicraft and folklore. It’s also a zoo, featuring all kinds of animals indigenous to Scandanavia.
You can lose hours (days, in fact) wandering around Gamla Stan – the old town. Since Sweden wasn’t involved in either of the World Wars, this remains one of the most in-tact and historical areas of Europe, some parts dating back to the 13th century. I’m always amazed at how such old buildings have remained in good form, and continue to be actively used and incorporated into daily life. This is such a novelty to a Canadian like me, where a really old building might be 150 years old, the average structure tending to disintegrate after about 50 years.
Seeing it With the Stockholm Card
If you want to cover a lot of Stockholm in a short time, the Stockholm Card is excellent value. It provides free public transportation, tours, and admission to over 80 museums and attractions.
There are so many places I missed on this trip to Stockholm; so many in fact that I’m sure I’ll return at some point. But alas, I had a date with a northern Swedish town well off most radar screens and a hospitality exchange with a Swedish family (some members of whom spoke almost no English; talk about alien invasion! Stay tuned for more about that experience in a future post).
Many thanks to the Stockholm Visitors Board for providing me with discounted accommodation, a Stockholm Card, and press package. I’m also quite impressed with the Stockholm Visitors Board website – it’s a great place to get information and ideas about your own trip to Stockholm.